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Niger snubs Nigeria, U.S; signs of growing Russia influence, say diplomatic sources

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Recent decision by Nigerien junta to revoke military agreement with US and keep its border with its Nigerian neighbor closed despite its West African brother’s reopening of ties speaks of growing influence of Russia’s Africa Corps, a military complex that replaced its Wagner Group in the continent, say some diplomatic sources to DDM.

Rusia has a steady fighting corps of over 100 personnel providing military services especially in the Alliance of Sahel States, AoSS.

Diplomatic sources are however convinced that such influence may not be good for Africa in the long run.

“Africa may see more coups like in the 60s and 70s.

“The continent can’t afford to be made a battle ground again,” explained one of the diplomat who spoke to the online news platform.

Ruling junta in Niger on Saturday decided to immediately revoke a military agreement that allowed U.S. military personnel and civilian staff from the Department of Defense to be present in the country.

The US maintains a drone base in Niger and such measure might deny the Americans a strategic leverage on West Africa.

The presence of about 1,100 U.S. troops in Niger, operating from two bases including a drone base near Agadez, was deemed illegal by Abdramane.

He argued that this presence violated constitutional and democratic rules as it was unilaterally imposed on Niger in 2012 without transparency regarding the number of U.S. personnel and equipment in the country.

According to the agreement, the U.S. military was not obligated to respond to requests for assistance against militants.

 

But according to Colonel Amadou Abdramane, a spokesperson for the junta, decision was made following a visit by U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee and General Michael Langley, commander of the U.S. Africa Command.

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Abdramane stated on television that the U.S. delegation did not follow diplomatic protocol and that Niger was not properly informed about the delegation’s composition, arrival date, or agenda.

Discussions during the visit focused on Niger’s military transition, cooperation between the two countries, and Niger’s choice of partners in combating militants associated with al Qaeda and Islamic State.

A U.S. official who later spoke anonymously to a wire service mentioned that there were frank discussions about Niger’s ruling military council, known as the CNSP, and that further updates would be provided as needed.

Since taking power in July the previous year, the Niger junta, similar to military rulers in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, has expelled French and other European forces and sought support from Russia.

But an earlier decision by Niger against its western neighbour, Nigeria, suggests that there might be more to the move against US.

Despite Nigeria announcing the reopening on March 13, 2024, for instance, the Nigerien authorities have not made any statements and have kept their entry points closed.

Niger and Nigeria share borders that is approximately 1,500 kilometers long and is one of the busiest borders in West Africa.

It is marked by various checkpoints and border crossings, with both countries working together to ensure security and facilitate trade and movement of people between the two nations.

While security agencies like the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigeria Immigration Service have facilitated movement along the border communities on the Nigerian side, their counterparts in Niger have not followed suit.

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Residents of border communities, particularly on the Nigerian side, are hopeful that the reopening of the borders will make trading easier and improve their lives.

The two countries have strong economic and social ties, and the reopening of the borders is expected to boost economic activities in the border communities.

While the Nigerian side has largely reopened its borders, the situation on the Nigerien side remains unclear. Residents hope for a resolution that benefits both countries and revives economic activities in the border regions.

But hope of normalizing the economic ties may not materialize going by recent development observers in the region’s diplomatic community see as external Russia influence.

In late January, the Africa Corps made a public announcement on Telegram that they had sent 100 personnel to Burkina Faso to assist the current leader, Ibrahim Traoré, in fighting against Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel region.

This new group has been taking over operations in Mali and Libya for a few months now, and there are talks about setting up a Russian military base in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Experts at the Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw predict that more units from the Africa Corps will probably be sent to various countries in the Sahel region, CAR, and Libya.

However, the activities of the group will depend on the agreements made with the local governments.

 


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